Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Accelerating Trade War Worries Farmers, Waterways Industry

Washington, D.C.—A year-long trade war between the United States and China took a dramatic turn as their tit-for-tat actions increased concerns for those in the waterways industry, farming and other sectors of the American economy.

Recent key developments included President Donald Trump’s decision to put a 10 percent tariff on another $300 billion worth of Chinese products next month, reports that China retaliated by halting purchase of American agricultural goods while keeping open an option of more tariffs on U.S. products, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s designation of China as a currency manipulator and action to eliminate its advantage on international trade.

Trump defended his administration’s approach, explaining the time is right for the U.S.

“We have to take on China,” he told reporters.

“We, right now, we’re sitting on top.”

Susan Monteverde, vice president of government relations for the American Association of Port Authorities, repeated her organization’s concerns.

“Among the biggest-ticket items on the tariffs list are multi-million-dollar, ship-to-shore gantry cranes used by American ports to load and unload containers from today’s giant cargo ships,” she said.

With a crane costing up to $14 million, AAPA says the tariff would hike that price tag significantly and reduce ports’ ability to make other important investments.

“The president has the authority to delist these cranes from the tariff schedule and we urge him to (do) it,” Monteverde said.

Officials from the American Farm Bureau Federation were more dramatic, describing China’s order to halt purchases of U.S. agricultural goods as a “body blow” to struggling farmers.

Despite the fallout from the recent trade talks in Shanghai, China, the White House described them as “constructive” and announced the next round of negotiations are expected in early September in Washington.

“China would like to make a deal very badly,” Trump said.

Budget Agreement Signed

Just one day after the Senate voted to give final congressional approval, President Trump signed into law a two-year budget agreement that leaders from both parties promoted as the best deal possible to get the fiscal year 2020 appropriations process back on track, avoid another government shutdown and hike the debt limit to protect the full faith and credit of the United States.

Trump, who supported the legislation despite concerns over deficit spending from his party’s budget hawks, did not issue a statement when he signed H.R. 3877.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) used a bill enrollment ceremony to underscore the bill’s impact and send it on to the president’s desk.

That vote was the last expected roll call of the month as senators joined House members in taking their traditional recess for the rest of August.

Lawmakers are not scheduled to return until after Labor Day.

Automated Transportation

The Maritime Administration (MarAd) is seeking views from the public, including stakeholders such as local and state agencies and private industries on issues related to safety effects, opportunities, challenges and impacts of automated transportation in a port environment to inform potential research projects.

MarAd noted that automated vehicles, trains, vessels, infrastructure and equipment are increasingly being tested and introduced into the transportation system, including at ports where modes of transportation intersect to create a hub of freight transfer in global supply chains.

Comments must be received by September 3.

For additional information, contact Travis Black at 202-366-9087.

Ballast Water Policy Letter

The U.S. Coast Guard is seeking public comments on a draft policy letter establishing proposed acceptance of type-approval testing protocols for Ballast Water Management System (BWMS) that render nonviable (permanently incapable of reproduction) organisms in ballast water and may be used in addition to methods established under existing regulations.

Comments must be received by September 30.

The draft policy letter is available on the USCG website: http://www.dco.uscg.mil/OES/Viability-Policy-Letter/.

For additional information, contact Matthew Reudelhuber at 202-372-1432.

Marine Highway Grants

The Maritime Administration (MarAd) extended its deadline for grant applications for previously designated Marine Highway Projects from August 15 to September 20.

Congress appropriated $7 million to the Short Sea Transportation Program, commonly referred to as America’s Marine Highway Program (AMHP), for projects that support the development and expansion of documented vessels or port and landside infrastructure.

Only Marine Highway Projects the secretary of transportation designated before the Notice of Funding Opportunity closing date will be eligible for funding, MarAd stated.

“Grant applications must be submitted electronically using www.grants.gov,” the agency explained.

“Please be aware that you must complete the grants.gov registration process before submitting your application, and that the registration process usually takes two to four weeks to complete. Applicants are strongly encouraged to make submissions in advance of the deadline.”

Under the extension, MarAd now must receive the grant applications by 5 p.m. on September 20.

For additional information, contact Fred Jones at 202-366-1123.

Offshore Safety Committee

The U.S. Coast Guard announced the National Offshore Safety Advisory Committee and its subcommittee will meet September 10 and 11 in Katy, Texas, to discuss matters affecting the offshore oil and gas industry.

Open to the public, the meeting of the Use of Offshore Supply Vessels and Other NonPurpose Built Vessels for Restoration/Recovery Activities  Subcommittee will begin at 1 p.m. Central Time September 10 with the meeting of the full committee to begin at 8 a.m. September 11.

Both meetings will be held at DNV GL USA Facility, 1400 Ravello Drive, Katy, Texas 77449.

For comments to be received before the meetings, they must be submitted no later than August 27.

For additional information, contact Cmdr. Myles Greenway at 202-372-1410.

Seaway Penalties

Inflation-adjusted penalties imposed by the Maritime Administration and the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation for violations of certain federal regulations took affect July 31 under a rule released by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Required by a 2015 law, the civil adjustments are made annually to maintain their deterrent effectiveness.

For additional information, contact Analiese Marchesseault at analiese.marchesseault@dot.gov.